I first spotted this billboard last weekend. Ever since I’ve been telling myself to get up there and snap a photo. I finally did Thursday night, right after Scott Feinberg’s Al Pacino interview at the DGA, which I’ll write about sometime tomorrow. (It’s now 12:05 am.) Talk about a farewell hug. It’s sitting on the north side of the Sunset Strip, facing southwest and somewhere between Olive and La Cienega.
HE is duly impressed by (a) “You’re a damn liar, man”, (b) “Get your facts straight, Jack!” and (c) “let’s do push-ups together.” For the first time in a long time, Biden sounded sharp, strong and flinty. He challenged his questioner to a push-up challenge, but that was because the guy is fat and Biden knew he’d win. But the mere mention of push-ups was impressive. It suddenly occured to me that Biden might be better at push-ups than me, and if he is, who the hell am I to call him “Droolin’ Joe”? Biden knows how to vent anger in the right way. That’s a good quality. Call this an HE attitude adjustment.
Once upon a time a certain kind of producer made modestly-budgeted films that weren’t aimed at lowest-common-denominator morons. These films were made for semi-cultivated, marginally educated, upmarket audiences who were…oh, 30 years of age and older, let’s say, and a certain kind of distributor would endeavor to distribute these films.
This was a few years before Amazon and Netflix and other streamers were routinely delivering films in 1080p and 4K to home theatres, and audiences, arcane as it may sound, would get into their cars, drive into garages and pay money to see these films in places called “theatres” or, if you will, “multiplexes,” where they would show films on large-sized screens with the aid of complex, SUV-sized devices called “projectors.”
This was more or less the way things were done in the mid teens and before. But even in this progressive-minded, sometimes adult-friendly age, audience viewing habits would sometimes disappoint certain erudite columnists. Enterprising fellows, for example, like Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffrey Wells. I’m mentioning this because earlier today a team of researchers came upon a portion of a column written by Wells many years ago, or way back in 2015. It’s only a portion of the column, apparently, but the tone indicates he was suffering from pique and irritation.
Here’s what it says: “The public, bless’ em, sometimes shows curious inclinations as far as which films they want to see. This is a roundabout way of saying that ticket-buyers only occasionally exhibit what used to be know as ‘taste‘ in choosing what they like, and that their moviegoing habits often indicate preferences of a lazy, ignorant and ineducable bent.
“On top of which narrative complexity (i.e., a deliberate, creative choice on the part of filmmakers to avoid black-and-white, dumbshit simplicity) seems to scare them to death.”
Clint Eastwood‘s Richard Jewell (Warner Bros., 12.13) may or may not connect with Joe Popcorn. I’m not sensing any kind of populist interest among ticket-buyers, certainly not along the lines of ticket-buyer enthusiasm for Eastwood’s American Sniper (’14), which wound up earning nearly $350 million domestic. But who knows?
Two days ago the National Board of Review announced that Bates had won their Best Supporting Actress award; they also gave a Best Breakthrough Performance trophy to Hauser. This may or may not translate into the Golden Globes and Oscar realm. It might.
But despite generally favorable reviews thus far, the film may run into opposition in certain journalistic quarters because of its negative depiction of the news media (particularly the early coverage of the Jewell case by the Atlanta Constitution).
James Vanderbilt‘s Truth (’15) and Jason Reitman‘s The Front Runner (’18), which presented similarly critical instances of rash or intemperate reporting about subjects of nation political interest, suffered lower-than-average reviews and went bust at the domestic box-office.
Truth earned a lousy $5,568,765. The Front Runner fared even worse, taking in $2,000,105.
Two days ago a tough Daily Beast piece by Nick Schager suggested that at least some critics and journalists (and possibly some guild and Academy members) are going to give Richard Jewell another chilly reception. Because it walks and talks like a kind of Trump fantasy.
Excerpt: “Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell wants to be a gripping, outrage-inciting drama about an innocent victim persecuted by — and driven to fight back against –institutional power. Unfortunately, what it turns out to be is a MAGA screed calibrated to court favor with the red hat-wearing faithful by vilifying the president’s two favorite enemies: the FBI and the media.”
Excerpt from 11.20 HE piece (“Clint’s Big Night“) about first major Richard Jewell screening for Los Angeles critics:
“After the q & a ended I went to the edge of the stage and reached up to shake Clint’s hand.
“I said something along the lines of ‘I can think of a certain guy in Washington who’s going to see this film about sloppy reporters who spin lies and hound an innocent man, and about an equally sloppy and unreliable FBI that isn’t on the side of truth, and he’ll say to himself ‘this is my movie, my viewpoint…it shares my beliefs about journalists and certain FBI guys.”
“And in that gentle and reflective tone of voice that he’s so well known for, Clint said that ‘we’re living in crazy times’ and that some people are going to see crazy things in Jewell’s story, but perhaps they shouldn’t. Or words to that effect.”
HE’s biggest movie-star moment during last Monday’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood party at Musso & Frank party? Meeting costar Julia Butters. She has that magnetic spark, that vibe, that extra-ness, that charismatic mesmerizing whatever. Plus she seems to have a certain Zen calm thing at the same time. She’s not excitable like some kids get. She has this casual Brando ‘tude. The ten-year-old Butters (born on 4.15.09) was sitting at a small table with her parents, Darin and Lorelei Butters. Tatyana and I strolled up, introduced ourselves, shook hands, etc.
Julia Butters — Monday, 12.2, Musso & Frank.
Sony honcho Tom Rothman, Quentin Tarantino, Julia Butters.
“Don’t cry in front of the Mexicans.”
I didn’t understand the recent back-and-forth between Leonardo DiCaprio and rightwing Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. The latter made false claims that Leo’s Earth Alliance donated $5 million to local environmental groups, which Bolsy claimed were responsible for starting Amazon forest fires. Leo’s response confused me. Why didn’t he just cut to the chase and call Bolsy as asshole? I was going to ask Leo about this but I got distracted by cheesecake and then he left.
Attending tomorrow night at the DGA.
Elaine May, Mike Nichols, JFK and two guys I don’t recognize — snapped in May ’62.
Tatyana in ancient Musso & Frank phone booth during Monday night’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood party at the legendary Hollywood haunt, which dates back to 1919.
Professor Pamela S. Karlan: “So while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.” What’s so terrible about that statement? She wasn’t addressing anything that Barron Trump has said, written or done. She was addressing what Donald Trump can and can’t legally do, and saying that he’s not a king — big deal.
I’m told that 46% of the directors of the forthcoming 2020 Sundance Film Festival are women…cool. The highest percentage ever. And I’m sure the annual ten-day event (1.23 through 2.2) will be…I don’t what. Snowy? Wokey-wokey? Inspiring? A lot of whoo-whooing before each premiere screening? A sense of zeitgeist fatigue? A feeling of “here we go again”?
A Taylor Swift doc (Taylor Swift: Miss Americana). Julie Taymor‘s Gloria Steinem biopic, titled The Glorias. Dee Rees‘ The Last Thing He Wanted. Sean Durkin‘s The Nest. Viggo Mortensen‘s Falling. Rodrigo Garcia‘s Four Good Days. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash‘s Downhill. Brenda Chapman‘s Come Away.
But Spike Lee‘s Da 5 Bloods, the Last Flag Flying-ish Vietnam gold-hunt film, won’t be there.
You know why? Because Sundance is a secular woke-spiritual get-together that has kinda sorta stopped mattering, and Spike knows Cannes is a better deal. He knows and I know that Sundance of 2020 is about itself — movies for the woke devotional — whereas the Sundance festivals of 2015 or ’10, ’05, ’00 or ’95 were about movies looking to ignite and connect and bust out and generate currents of serious consequence, and perhaps even some award-season action down the road. No more. That era has past.
Now the filmmaker deal is “come to Sundance to introduce your film to the Sundance friendlies, and maybe they’ll tell their Instagram friends about it when it starts streaming four or six or ten months hence…whenever. But you’re almost certainly not breaking out. You and your film are members of Sundance Village, and you’ll never, ever step out of that realm. Unless you’re Kenneth Lonergan or someone in that fraternity.”
If you believe in Sundance Village movies and the values that they stand for and/or are endorsing and seeking to bring about, then Sundance Village is for you. Buy your ticket packages, lay out the dough for the condo, buy your snow gear and your Southwest Airlines discount tickets.
But I know some people who aren’t going this year. Because they know that the high-voltage Sundance necessity of years past is ebbing, and that it won’t be a total tragedy if they don’t attend. Because they’ll see the hotties (there are always four or five) in good time. Maybe some will be streamable while the festival is underway.
10 or 15 years ago the slogan was “Sundance spelled backwards spells depressing.” Now it’s “Sundance spelled backwards means ‘does anyone give that much of a shit?'”
My honest attitude after attending for 25 or 26 years? I think I’ve conveyed that.
Excerpt: “Queen & Slim is an extrapolation of thoughts that run through the heads of black people each time we’re called upon to mourn publicly, to request justice like supplicants, to comfort ourselves with inert lies about this sort of thing stopping in the near-future. That kind of insular honesty is rare in any kind of art but particularly perilous in cinema.
“This is a film that stands as strong a chance of being hailed and lauded as it does of being denounced and picketed, but it understands the inescapable fact that heroism is entirely a matter of context, that heroes need not be concerned with explaining themselves, and that [the film] — like the characters at its center, like the history it draws upon — stands a great likelihood of being misunderstood. And, gloriously, neither its writer nor its director appears to give a damn.”
10:37 am: Hollywood Elsewhere 100% applauds the NYFCC giving their Best Picture award to Martin Scorsese‘s The Irishman, but giving their Best Director award to Benny and Josh Safdie for Uncut Gems is absolute contrarian poke-the-hornet’s nest insanity. The honorable Scorsese has taken the top prize and Quentin Tarantino has snagged a kind of second or third prize with the screenplay award, but the NYFCC’s embrace of the Safdies is almost, within the realm of year-end award-giving, a kind of felony. I know more than a few people who hate Uncut Gems, or at the very least have found it infuriating or soul-draining. And here’s the NYFCC giving the brothers a bear hug and saying “yes, you did well, keep it up, more like this!”
10:18 am: Once Upon A Time in Hollywood‘s Quentin Tarantino has won the NYFCC’s Best Screenplay award. Check. Well-liked film, great dialogue, an unusual tale with a compassionate ending.
9:57 am: Lupita Nyong’o wins the NYFCC’s Best Actress trophy for Us? Seriously? Eight parts wokester virtue-signalling, two parts serious regard for a noteworthy performance…trust me. Last year’s Best Actress award for Support The Girls‘ Regina Hall comes to mind. The NYFCC used to be the NYFCC — now it’s an organizational ally of Indiewire‘s wokeness gesture crusade. Good as she was in Jordan Peele’s interesting if underwhelming horror flick, Lupita basically delivered an intelligent, first-rate, Jamie Lee Curtis-level scream-queen performance with a side order of raspy-voiced predator doppleganger. Five out of 31 Gold Derby handicappers have Lupita on their lists, but no one has her in first or second position. I realize that the Best Actress field is regarded as a bit weak this year, but I would have gone with either Bombshell‘s Charlize Theron, The Farewell‘s Awkwafina or Judy‘s Renee Zellweger.
9:40 am: In another international-minded, anti-Gold Derby decision, the NYFCC has blown off Joker‘s Joaquin Phoenix, Marriage Story‘s Adam Driver and Uncut Gems‘ Adam Sandler to give their Best Actor prize to Antonio Banderas‘ minimalist, intriguingly layered performance in Pedro Almodovar‘s Pain and Glory. HE has no argument with this — it’s one of Banderas’s all-time best performances, and it won the Best Actor prize in Cannes last May — but understand that the NYFCC’s motive in choosing him was at least partly to give the bird to the Gold Derby gang.
9:12 am: Laura Dern has won the NYFCC’s Best Supporting Actress trophy, mostly for her tough divorce attorney performance in Marriage Story (and in particular that great monologue about how women are unfairly regarded by Judeo-Christian culture) and also for her Marmie in Little Women, a performance that I found…well, sufficient.
9:04 am: Joe Pesci‘s soft-spoken performance as Russell Buffalino in The Irishman has won the New York Film Critics Circle’s Best Supporting Actor award. There’s no question that Pesci delivers in a dead-calm, clean-pocket-drop way in Martin Scorsese‘s epic film, but how very NYFCC to single him out. Rank-and-file handicappers would have gone with Al Pacino‘s Jimmy Hoffa turn or Brad Pitt‘s Cliff Booth in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, but whatever. Pesci rules today!
Earlier: In another snooty move, the NYFCC has blown off Roger Deakins‘ phenomenal cinematography in 1917 in order to give the Best Cinematography award to Claire Mathon’s lensing of Portrait of a Lady on Fire. A very handsomely shot film, no question, but not my idea of mind-blowing or wowser or whatever triple-cool superlative you want to use.
Earlier: The NYFCC’s Best Animated Feature award has gone to I Lost My Body. No comment as I lost my interest in watching animated films about a decade ago. Knowing that I will never sit through another animated film in the time I have remaining on this planet fills me with indescriable joy.